What is the fastest, most reliable, and cheapest way to ship a package overseas? It isn’t FedEx.
My family shelled out $270 USD to ship a package from Green Bay, Wisconsin to Marburg, Germany. I recommended using UPS or DHL for better results, but I can understand my mother’s concern. She is a nurse, after all, and the contents of the package are things that I cannot live without. It contains insulin, syringes, and blood glucose strips to treat diabetes. Mind you that insulin should not go without refrigeration for an extended period, hence the steep amount of money paid for post haste delivery. The package was dropped off on June 7.
Believing the package to be en route I merely waited for someone to ring my doorbell. If I was not home I expected a little card to be placed in my mailbox saying something to the effect of:
We tried to deliver this package, but you were not available. How can we get this package to you in a timely manner? Here is our contact information. Thank You, FedEx
After some time I began to get worried when nothing showed up. Naively I told myself that this kind of stuff happens all the time. People here have shared similar stories of packages originating from the United States not arriving on time. So I filed the thought in the back of my mind until more pressing issues were resolved. When I finally checked the status on their website and it read “Clearance Delay.” I called FedEx and they told me that they required a copy of my plane ticket, a copy of my passport, and a written statement before it could be sent out. I would have to fax all of these details to Frankfurt. Getting a copy of my ticket, a copy of my passport, and a written statement faxed out took quite some time and 0.90 Euro. After all was said and done I called FedEx the next day to ensure that they received my fax. They confirmed and I breathed a sigh of relief. All should be well.
It can be difficult to deliver a package when someone is not home. However, I cannot sit around and wait for this box to show up. There are lectures to attend, homework to stumble through, and other necessary obligations. So when I got home this last Wednesday night I received an e-mail that said “Unable to collect payment.” I immediately called FedEx to ask what was wrong now. They told me that an attempt to deliver the package was made, but I had “refused the package.” I was floored by this revelation. How could I have “refused the package” when I had not even spoken to anyone? They said, and I quote, “Maybe one of your flat-mates didn’t want to pay the fee.” How could anyone have told the delivery person that I wasn’t going to pay? I live in a single room… alone. There is no way one of my “flat-mates” could have told the delivery person that. Yes, please, do tell. How much is this fee? “69.41 Euro.”
Insulin is something you cannot live without and, unfortunately, my pancreas staged a successful coup de tat 13 years ago. I have no choice in the matter than but to pay this fee. The proposition of living for close to a month without proper medical treatment would be detrimental, if not downright fatal. Anticipating the collection of dues I walked down the street to the closest Sparkasse ATM and withdrew 100 Euro. I know exactly what the exchange rate was at that moment because my online account says I took out 134.63 USD. So 69.41 Euro after the exchange rate comes to 93.45 USD. Tack 1 USD onto that for the ATM fee.
But why the 69.41 Euro fee? When you send goods German customs charges a Duty-and-Tax Reclaim fee according to the “Ancillary Clearance Fees – Germany” page on fedex.com. I would like to think that the local Wisconsin FedEx representative informed my family of this nominal fee before agreeing to ship the package, but my instinct tells me that they did not. Nor did I have any indication on the tracking page to suspect any sort of impending fees. What happens when the delivery person arrives at the door and John College-Student has nothing but pocket change for laundry handy? Is it not logistically then more expensive for the shipping company to pay the man-hours to redeliver the parcel?
Seething to the brink with anger I informed FedEx that I would be home Friday, June 22 in the morning. They said that the delivery would come between 8 a.m. and noon. Just for extra precaution I put a note with my cell phone number on it next to the doorbell.
Shortly after noon I received an e-mail update on the status of my package. What could it be this time? “Incorrect address.” The FedEx representative on the other line rattled off the address on the package to me line by line.
Kenneth Fager. – That’s me.
Ernst-Lemmer-Strasse? – Check.
House number 15? – You bet.
Marburg? – Affirmative.
Please note that the delivery person was able to locate my living quarters when I was not home on Wednesday, but unable to successfully locate it on Friday. Locating a correct address with “faulty” information is a spectacular feat. Being unable to locate an address with correct information after previously being there boggles the mind. All this drama, despite the note next to my name on the doorbell that said I would be there and had a phone number to call. The representative said that they would call back in a few minutes after this situation was worked out. Slightly over an hour later I received a call that the package would be delivered on Monday, June 25 between 8 a.m. and noon. For some reason I had my doubts that this would be accomplished.
Monday morning and I am wide-awake at 8. For some nagging reason I cannot fall back to sleep. I went downstairs to check to see if my note was still down there. Yes, it is. Now all I have to do is wait some more. By noon there was still no package in my possession and I wasted no time calling FedEx. They assured me that the package is en route and would be delivered by 5 that evening.
Finally, at 2:20 p.m., a delivery person showed up with my package. The first thing I noticed was that he was not wearing a FedEx uniform. I did not quite catch the name of the delivery service, but do recall being rather offended by the idea that FedEx may have passed the buck on this one. I forked over the 69.45 Euro and headed back inside. Fortunately the contents of the package arrived in sound condition.
The accompanying paperwork outside the box made everything clear. The invoices filled out and signed by my father have the correct information verbatim. The accompanying statements from my doctor also have the correct information verbatim. It was not until the package arrived into the possession of Federal Express Europe, Inc. that things got messed up. They copied my information incorrectly on their delivery sticker. Kenneth Fager suddenly became Kenneth Faerern. Keep in mind that my correct name and address were visible all over the package in multiple places.
The thing that really gets me going about this whole situation is that FedEx never informed me of the problems with my package until I contacted them. Every step of the way I had to poke and prod them. Every day that my package sat waiting for clearance and delivery, charges were stacked up without my knowledge. What kind of customer service is this? My insulin has been sitting God-knows-where for over two weeks degrading every moment it is not in cold storage. I just hope the vials have not been baking in some delivery truck. I have just enough supplies to last a week. I literally am on my last vial of NPH and blood glucose test strips. It just may have been easier and cheaper to ship each item innocuously via regular mail.
Summarization of time and money spent to get this package:
- 270 USD to send the package
- 1.21 USD to send a fax*
- 93.45 USD for the tariffs*
- 1 USD for the ATM charge
- 5x phone calls
- 2x 25-minute bus rides
- 2x 4 hour periods of promised delivery times
- *=converted from Euro (1 Euro = 1.3634 USD)
- Ship Date: June 7
- Estimated Arrival: June 11
- Actual Arrival: June 25
FedEx’s website has a page that outlines their mission statement. Under “loyalty” it says, “We earn the respect and confidence of our FedEx people, customers and investors every day, in everything we do.” I believe their pledge of loyalty to the customer to be an absolute farce. They have not earned my respect or confidence, but instead robbed me of time and given me nothing but stress for the past week.
This scenario is more than likely an exception to the rule. However, as a frequent seller of goods on eBay, I now refuse to consider FedEx as a shipping option. I hereby will not recommend their services and will go out of my way to avoid using them. If you have a package to ship overseas your best bets are going to be UPS or DHL. I can say with a certain degree of assurance that when I had problems shipping goods in the past, UPS and DHL were quick to rectify the issue.